Sunday 9th of August 2020

humanities take a hit...

too many

I have been searching the list of what's what in the new fees for the university degrees and cannot find if the cost of learning theology will increase or decrease... Who cares, you might say, especially for a fierce atheist like Guskyleon... But with the Prime Minister, Scotty from marketing, being a fervent believer in Noah's Ark bullshit, one wonders if the religious studies fees will go up or down. Not a peep on this issue.


Meanwhile, Michelle Grattan at The Conversation tends to pour cold water over the fire of humanities massive fee increases... Should you choose to become a philosophical farmer, for example, your fees will be lowered:


Tehan says the changes are based at a unit level not a degree level, so an arts student could reduce their total cost by including electives in subjects like mathematics, English, science and IT.

“We are encouraging students to embrace diversity and not think about their education as a siloed degree.

"So if you want to study history, also think about studying English.

"If you want to study philosophy, also think about studying a language.

"If you want to study law, also think about studying IT,” Tehan says.

“Existing students set to gain from this policy will be able to do so from next year.

"Students will have a choice. Their degree will be cheaper if they choose to study in areas where there is expected growth in job opportunities,” Tehan says. “A cheaper degree in an area where there’s a job is a win-win for students.”


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The cost of becoming a bullshit artist like Gus is thus amortised by becoming multilingual like Gus... Meanwhile should you wish to learn humanities, politics and history on the cheap, read all the articles on this site... Easy. No diploma mind you. In regard to "English", the Minister used the word "siloed" which isn't in my spell-check... "He probably made this one up" asked I. On reflection, Google finds about 1,680,000 results in 0.42 seconds in regard to "siloed". Thus the Minister isn't making things up, unlike me...


humanities as the expression of democratic ambition...


By Virginia Trioli


An arts degree has long been the butt of many a predictable joke, but the other week a senior employment recruiter shared with me on air what organisations were telling her they wanted to see in new employees, and there was a familiar echo in what she had to say.

As AI replaces more and more of the jobs we once assumed our children could grow up to do, this recruiter's research with leaders across several industry sectors identified the most important character traits needed in a post-COVID-19 workforce. They include adaptability, emotional control and resilience, persuasion and negotiation skills, relationship building and “skin or soul in the game”.

Let's say your infrastructure firm needs to persuade the Queensland Government of your construction agenda. You had better check the above list. Or say you're an economist advising the loans division of a bank or the manager of a medium-sized business dealing with suppliers. Imagine you are a primary producer scouring for a new export market: check the list.

That list above describes my four-and-a-bit years at uni, travelling in and around art history, English, Russian literature and Australian history. It describes the self-reliance, organisational skills, critical and comparative thinking and sheer enthusiasm for new and challenging ideas that those years fostered in me and my peers.

Despite the Federal Government's announcement yesterday, they clearly get this too: indeed the Education Minister, Dan Tehan, was the one who funded and opened a new centre at RMIT in Melbourne last year to investigate the ethical use of emerging AI technologies. Humanities, eh?

Is 'job-ready' the goal?

I'm not going to bang on here about how our shared and contrasting human histories and experiences, and our emotional connections to and understanding of the world, are almost entirely contained within the study of the humanities — after thousands of years of human civilisation that much is clear.

One Vice Chancellor — with double degrees spanning the sciences and creative arts — remarked to me that viewing university education as fundamentally about turning out "job-ready" graduates misses the point.

The question now is what the consequences of this de-funding will be?

The late essayist and quicksilver intellectual Christopher Hitchens once argued that "above all, we are in need of a renewed Enlightenment … and this Enlightenment will not need to depend, like its predecessors, on the heroic breakthroughs of a few gifted and exceptionally courageous people. It is within the compass of the average person".

For many, the universality of the humanities degree is the most democratic expression of this ambition.


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a CONservative nose...

Plato believed the education minister was the most important of the supreme offices in the state, and the job should be given to the best all-round citizen.

He thought a harmonious society could be created if girls and boys were given equal educational opportunity from an early age, and an unjust society would emerge without it.

He was so convinced of the benefits of education that he established his own university — the Academy (which his most famous student, Aristotle, attended for 20 years).

The fight over education has changed form

Fast-forward 2,500 years and education remains a major political battleground. 

But in the capitalist era, the fight over education has its own characteristics. 

Since market-based economies require a steady replenishment of consumers and workers, the modern education system is expected to give young adults the skills to secure a job in the marketplace.

There are different interpretations of what that means.

Last week, Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan announced his intention to radically overhaul the university education sector.

He said he planned to reduce the Commonwealth's overall financial contribution to university degrees from 58 per cent to 52 per cent and lift student contributions (i.e. fees) from 42 per cent to 48 per cent.

He planned to increase the number of university places by 39,000 within three years, at no cost to the Government — so the cost of the extra places would be borne by student fees. 

He wanted to establish a $900m "industry linkage fund" for investment in technology, engineering, maths, and science education, to be funded by cuts to teaching and learning budgets, and provide a yearly $500m for Indigenous and low socio-economic students to help them attend university, among other things.

But overall, it would be a zero-sum initiative, with no new money coming from the Government.

The overhaul would rely on fee hikes and budget cuts and a shift-around of money so the enterprise could be "budget neutral".

But some of his proposed fee changes were very controversial. 

He proposed increasing the cost of humanities courses by 113 per cent, putting them in the highest price band of $14,500 a year, meaning an arts student's contribution to the cost of their degree would be higher than someone studying medicine.

He proposed lifting law and commerce degree fees 28 per cent.

Meanwhile, the fees for agriculture and maths degrees would fall 62 per cent. Teaching, nursing, clinical psychology, English and language degrees would fall 46 per cent, and science, health, architecture, environmental science, IT and engineering degree fees would fall 20 per cent.

Mr Tehan used the language of the "market" to justify his proposed changes.

There was no mention of political philosophy.




But what will happen after that? What will the economy and labour force look like in 30 years?

If you asked a politician in 1990 to predict what the workforce of 2020 would like look, how do you think they'd go? 

In the past 30 years the world has changed immeasurably: the internet's gone mainstream, lithium-ion batteries have been commercialised, and those in turn have led to smart phones and laptops, renewable energy systems and electric vehicles, artificial intelligence and self-driving cars.


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The minister is short-sighted, barely seeing beyond his CONservative clown nose... unless it's a Pinocchio's honker... or both...